Good news…I’m not spam!!! I cannot believe how many of you wrote to me to tell me that you wanted me to know you were still praying for me. I have needed and appreciated those words more than you will ever know during the past days. There is much too much to fit here…I feel like I am walking around in a dream most of the time. The last 2 weeks have been some of the hardest I have ever experienced. I am still sifting the moments, the memories, and the loss. Trying to figure out where it all goes in my life, and how in the world I am supposed to watch my kids play at the park and not just blurt out, “I just lost my daughter” to all the other mommies. What is this new life I have been given? In time, I know it will begin to make sense. We will learn what to say when people ask how many children we have. We will learn to fall asleep on a dry pillow. We will remember how to love fully, without fear of losing the one thing we can’t stand to lose. We will.

But not today.

Today I am broken. I feel like I am in the midst of intense spiritual warfare. The Blogger people unfroze me yesterday, and I sat down to write after the kids were in bed. I stared at the screen for about an hour, just crying and trying to stretch my fingers across the letters to form something that would tell you what I am feeling. I finally closed my computer and went to sleep, only to toss and turn for most of the night. When I did sleep, it was filled with images of Audrey, but they always unfolded differently. In one, I was screaming at the sky while people all around me told me that I wasn’t loud enough. They kept telling me that if I screamed at the top of my lungs, God would let me have her back. He would drop her from the sky. And so, in my dream, I stood with my arms outstretched to the heavens, believing. Then I remember crumpling up on the ground in tears, knowing that I wasn’t enough. I couldn’t do what I needed to do to save her. I woke up in the throes of helplessness, my bed soaked with sweat.

In another dream, I was away from home and had a feeling that something was wrong with her. I called Todd to check in and he told me that she had died, and that we had both missed her memorial service. I would wake up every few minutes, sometimes grabbing at my stomach to see if she was still there, or if any of it was true. Of course, on every occasion, I eventually remembered.

I feel like I am constantly releasing her, reminding myself that it is really happening. She is gone.

What I have in that moment is the blanket that she was wrapped in for most of her life.

What I have are the pictures of her sweet face.

What I have is a beautiful necklace that a stranger sent to me with all of my daughters’ initials on it.

What I have is a scar, five inches long, which tells me that she lived here not so long ago.

What I do not have is my daughter. And that loss is deeper than anything I could put on paper. It is concrete, definitive, gaping. It is my new life.

Shortly after Audrey was born, some of my close friends came to my house and told me they had a surprise for us. About half an hour later, there was a cherry blossom tree planted in our front yard in place of a maple that had never lived. To see those little pink flowers in the place where we had become accustomed to seeing dead branches was profound for me. Several times a day I walk by my dining room windows and smile at the blossoms because they remind me of my past, and they urge me to believe that new life has begun. The soil is rich in longing, needy for purpose, and prepared to be the giver of life. The friends that brought me that tree could not have known the full extent of how meaningful it was to me.

The official name of the tree is the “Yoshino Cherry.” I have always (unbeknownst to them) loved Japanese cherry trees. Growing up, I spent about four years in Kobe, Japan, and some of my fondest memories drift back to me in the form of pink petals floating on the breeze, beckoning hard-working men and women out of their offices. The cherry blossom season is so short (only a few days!), that last year, the government issued a national apology when they miscalculated the dates. I remember the way my sister and I jumped up and down as the petals fell like snow around us, and thousands of people gathered all around to just experience the beauty. This is one of the descriptions that I found online:

“The Japanese Cherry starts flowering profusely from the first warmer days in April, heralding the coming of spring.

The intense beauty and short survival span have associated Cherry Blossoms with spiritual and philosophical ideas such as the beauty and fragility of human life.”

I read these words and I just fell apart. It’s okay. I needed to fall apart. I pictured the God of the universe watching two little girls dance under the falling blossoms, in a country so far from home…innocence in motion…and years later watching my dear friends plant life in a season of loss. Once again I was reminded that none of this is a surprise to Him.

I went to a tourist site to track the Cherry Blossom festivals for this year, and I clicked on “Kobe.” This is the place where so many of my childhood memories come from…so much joy. I watched the dates come up and the tears just started falling. April 7th, 2008…one of the peak bloom days.

A one week time span, and there she was.

Tonight, my knees will bow to the God that gave her to me…and the God who took her from me. The God who loves to bloom where death reigned. We welcome you, Lord. Come and make it beautiful again.

Sweet Audrey-blossom. You captured us all.

My dad and some business associates
Me and my sister